WE ARE: 5 women navigating our twenties in search of peace, happiness and love (or not). WE WRITE: about everything and nothing. From the insane to the mundane- you will find different paths taken, lessons learned and lives lived. WE THINK: you’ll enjoy it...Warning: Consumption of these views may leave you enlightened while intoxicated.


The View From Here will conclude on Friday, October 1, our third year anniversary. We would like to spend this month thanking all of our readers, followers, haters, visitors, family, friends, and fans for your continued support, encouragement, and comments over these past few years. Thanks y'all!
-The Five Spot

Friday, January 18, 2008

Are You Being Served?

There is a saying, mayhap you’ve heard it, that goes like this: Black people don’t tip. As someone who has been employed in the food and beverage industry, and by employed I mean I had to tap dance for tips to pay the bills, I can say with authority that they damn sure don’t. But here’s something that I would like for you readers to share with the masses: White people don’t tip either. And neither do Latinos. Or Asians. Or East Indians. But no one seems to talk about this...

More often than not, when a group of Black people (especially Black males) would come in, the waitresses would pray that they didn’t sit in their section, and if they did a loud sigh and before-they-even-got-to-the-table complaints would emerge. Now this does not bode well for the customer who will usually be treated with attitude, which will probably lead to a non tip (and they may have tipped in the first place). But often times people (read those in the mainstream) go solely by appearances.

However, I received great tips from Black folk who other waitresses wrote off because of their baggy jeans and their penchant for Courvoisier; gotten a $100 tip (for absolutely nothing) from a scruffy looking white man in overalls (although please believe I had someone walk me to my car when I got off in fear that he would be waiting outside with the hope that I work for that tip) and received a quarter from a group of white men in business suits. So, I learned early on in my waitressing “career” that it’s important to treat everyone the same because you never know who not only has the money to spend but is willing to share it with others. MESSAGE!

Unfortunately this “treat others how you would like to be treated” mantra is not often the norm. At one restaurant where I worked as a hostess, a server would tell us, “send me white people, only white people.” And no he wasn’t joking. If we sat Black people in his section, he would be PISSED. He, and too many other waiters after busting their asses for a table had received messages written on receipts from Black customers that read: Tip: Don’t think you getting a tip… And so the servers had given up, washed their hands of Black folk…. So my questions are these: did a majority of Black people never tip, and thus the stereotype was born? Or was the stereotype created out of thin air, with no facts to back it up, (just something to add to the list of what Black people don’t do) and we “lived” up to the expectations? On some, “you know we don’t tip…” So which came first the chicken or the egg?

As much as we have “overcome” in this country, often times whether we like to admit or not, race can confine us and define us (I’m looking at you Obama). We may try to rise above the stereotype, tipping 15% or 20% (not to prove anything but because we know the deal) but the truth is when we walk through those doors we are often viewed as the collective race, not as individuals. We try to get away from this but are often reminded. I can remember sitting on a plane next to a middle aged white woman from the Midwest and telling her that I was in college and that my brother was on his way to college. She was shocked and amazed. Trust me, it was shock and amazement in her voice when she said, “OH MY, that’s wonderful…” It’s when white people try to tell me about their European trips and I tell them about my time studying abroad. More shock and amazement. It’s when the white people assume that you too live in the county with all the other Black people, instead of in their neighborhoods.

It seems that we can’t shake this load off. Some of us don’t care, believing that we don’t have to prove ourselves to anyone. Noble in theory but doesn’t always work in practice. When Bellini wrote earlier this week about certain stars transcending race, it seems that the stereotypes don’t apply to them anymore. Until they do. It’s when Oprah and Co. are turned away at the Hermes store. Don’t you no who I’m is? Why no we don't, sans your makeup and a microphone, you are just another Black woman…It’s when some white news anchor calls an educated Black politician/athlete/entertainer “articulate” in a surprising tone. It’s when the Clinton camp reminds America that Obama is a BLACK MAN and they know the scary images that will be conjured in people’s minds. Aaaaahhh just when you think you have made it to the mountaintop, you look up and the peak has been moved a little higher.

I admire us for taking the strides to “defy” stereotypes. And I am also amused at how we can also “embrace” the stereotypes. We can play the loud, full of attitude Black woman when we need to. We keep some stereotype cards close to our vest, like knowing just when to play your Big Joker in a Spades game, we know when to play those cards to ensure a refund or a free meal, or to scare or intimidate white people. So I wonder if we're really trying to shake this load off all the way...

By the content of their character. That phrase plays over and over in my brain as I watch the 2008 elections unfold. Will we ever reach that day where we are truly judged and treated by the content of our character? And will we know what to do with ourselves if and when it ever happens? Which card will be able to play then?

That's my time y'all! Happy Rum Punch Friday!!

In the D.C. Area and looking for a way to observe MLK Day? Check it: http://www.evite.com/pages/invite/viewInvite.jsp?inviteId=ZBZWGTGZXADERWVZYZJG


Anonymous said...

I love the fact you brought up the topic of race and tipping. I happen to go out to restaurants about 3x's a week and I run into this problem often. I was recently at a restaurant with my best friend and met the rudest waiter in my life. I asked him for eating utensils long before the food came to the table, and I waited for the utensils long I received my food. He always looked in the other direction when passing, so that he did not have to feel obligated to check on us. So, I'my friend immediately begins deducting from the tip that we were planning to give him. And yes we are big tippers. But then we notice that the other customers have a different approach. Some ask to speak to manager in hopes that they will get a free dessert, and the other people just leave without paying for their meal altogether. I think it's ironic that people like to label black people as being bad tippers, but I think they should really be worried about the customers that are quick to run to the restaurant managers about terrible service in hopes of getting a free appetizer or desserts, because that can cost them their job.

The Breaking Point said...

What I have learnt throughout my life is that many of the negative stereotypes that are applied to blacks apply equally to other groups.

Some of us feel differently because of a lack of exposre. sad, really.

outblandish said...

I'm a black man, and this is how I tip:

20% or more for excellent sevice
15% for good service
0% for terrible service. In the rare occasion that I leave no tip, I will track down the manager and let him/her know why I didn't tip.

I am sad to say that the few times that I was forced to leave a 0% tip, it was a place in a black neighborhood. I'm not saying that every time I go to a restaurant in a black neighborhood that I get horrible service, and I'm not saying that this couldn't happen to me in Georgetown or K Street. I'm just telling you my experience. Maybe a coincidence...